O Canadian Math Society Winter Meeting

On my way home from the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS) winter meeting, which was held at the University of Waterloo last Friday-Monday.  Going to Canada for math is not new for me—I LOVE going to Canada for math and do it pretty often—but this was the first time I’d gone to something organized by the AMS’s Canadian counterpart. I came to this meeting because I was invited to give a talk in a really nice session called “Explicit Finiteness of Integral Points on Hyperbolic Curves,” organized by David McKinnon and Jerry Wang.  Some of my work is very relevant to this topic, though I admit I had to look up what exactly made a curve hyperbolic before I said yes.  In any case, while I was at the meeting I started thinking about how much I have enjoyed my connections with Canadian mathematicians and institutions, as well as how little I know now/knew when I started going to Canada about the mathematical world there.  Which is a bit silly—there are so many excellent Canadian mathematicians and math departments, and so many connections within the mathematical profession between the countries, how could I know so little?

Okay, so here is a short digression on math in Canada: I was introduced to Canada’s math community will through the Banff International Research Station (BIRS), which I first visited in 2008 for the first Women in Numbers conference.  BIRS is on the grounds of the Banff Center for the arts, and I was thrilled to find this institution that placed mathematics among other creative practices. Obviously, Canada has many great universities, some of them world-famous and definitely USA-famous.  There are other great universities that people in the US may not know much about, though.  University of Waterloo, for example, is a really excellent place with an ENTIRE COLLEGE of Mathematics (with their own dean) consisting of the departments of Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Combinatorics and Optimization, and Statistics and Actuarial Science.  There are around 240 full-time faculty in this college and something like 8000 students.  The College bills this as “the largest concentration of mathematical and computer science talent in the world.” Of course, Canadians know about University of Waterloo, but I had no idea it existed before I started coming here for conferences a few years ago, and when I told people in at home that I was going to Waterloo for a conference, they mostly assumed I meant Iowa. One person asked if I meant Belgium.

The mathematical community of Canada is smaller than that in the US—the CMS has “1,100+” members (best estimate I could find on the website), whereas the AMS has around 28,000.  Many CMS members may also be AMS members. The CMS winter meeting felt similar to a large-ish AMS sectional meeting, a great size—you see a lot of people from different areas, but can still walk through the main common area without fear of losing your friends forever.  Given the number of members, relative to the AMS, the CMS does a startling amount of stuff, including sponsoring high school math competitions and Math Camps, publishing research and teaching journals, and granting several prestigious prizes. And also, in case anyone forgot, the Fields Institute is in Canada.

Anyway, my CMS winter meeting experience was excellent.  Here is a photo tour:

Sabin Cautis, winner of the Coxeter-James Prize, giving his plenary lecture entitled “N choose k = N choose N-k”.

Mike Bennett, President of the CMS, shows Joseph Gunther, recent PhD and non-Canadian, how to eat some delicious Middle Eastern poutine, supervised by Nils Bruin and Patrick Ingram. (Counterclockwise from top left.)

The hotel bar was math themed.

Richard Hoshino won the Adrien Pouliot Award and gave a lecture entitled “Four Problem-Solving Strategies for Mathematics and for Life”. Richard is also the author of a novel entitled “The Math Olympian”, about a Nova Scotia girl named Bethany that trains to participate in the International Math Olympiad.

Richard Hoshino teaches at Quest University in British Columbia–one of a few schools on the block plan like Colorado College. So we were the block plan delegation to the CMS winter meeting.

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